We advise clients by telephone and by email, by letter and (if it suits them) at our office here in Norfolk.

Most of us use ordinary highways daily..


...perhaps local footpaths or long-distance motorways, or anything in between. But the right of way is limited. The highway appears at first sight to be a long and relatively narrow piece of land, which we are all entitled to use. With a little further thought, we recognise that footpaths are not for lorries to use and that motorways are not for walkers. The northbound lane of the M6 is not for southbound traffic and the width of a footpath across a farmer's field cannot be infinite.

We all have rights in relation to our highways
But those rights are not limitless. In a season of heavy snowfall and drifting, we expect 'the relevant authority' to clear a way through the snow. We expect that to happen quite quickly on major roads, but no-one realistically expects a tiny rural footpath to be cleared of snow within weeks, or at all. And if a deep hole appears in a road, we expect 'the relevant authority' to mend it. Some of these expectations are enforceable as rights in law.

Property owners also have rights that they can enforce in law
The most important of their rights in relation to a highways across their land is to keep highway users on the highway and off their non-highway land. But where is the lateral boundary?

And is, for example, a route used every day by a dog-walker a highway, or could it just be a private farm roadway, or a car park for a private manufacturing business?

And if a private business expands suddenly and hundreds of heavy lorries begin to damage adjacent roads, who is liable to mend the road? (If it is extraordinary traffic, the relevant authority can recover the costs from the damaging business.) But if this extraordinary traffic goes on for five years, it probably becomes 'ordinary traffic' and next time, the relevant authority has to bear the cost of repairs, instead.

And which 'relevant authority' is liable for this maintenance anyway?

The Parish?
The District?
The County?
The Borough?
Transport for London?
The Highways Agency?
The Secretary of State?


Nicholas Hancox answers these questions in his book "Highways Law and Practice" (Lexis Nexis 2002). His expertise is also available to clients. Contact us on 01493 754004 or send an email to enquiries@nicholashancox.co.uk.